Tools, templates, and best practices

Today is the day when you stop the dog and pony show as a Business Analyst. That’s enough!

If you were ever confused with the multitude of templates that you have to deal with on a day-to-day basis as an analyst, it is all about to end.

Wouldn’t it be nice to never document meeting minutes, because it’s an utter waste of time?

Why would you need to plan your business analysis approach when the PM knows what the deliverables are already?

Requirements attributes are just columns that you will have to fill out and what’s the point in planning them out ahead of time?

Today we are pleased to present “The Omniscient BA Template” … the only template you’ll need to perform business analysis end-to-end.

This feature rich and versatile template helps you to read Your stakeholders minds, decode politics and get things done!

Presenting the Omniscient BA Template

If you are already envisioning a 500+ page template with 30 different sections that includes every aspect of analysis work, I would like shed some light on its existence.

The reality is:

It doesn’t exist!

Yes, it really doesn’t. And there is no better day to realize that this is a no more than a joke on the most light hearted day of the year – The April Fools Day! :)

The Template Fool Syndrome

On the same token, it is unrealistic to think that by just having a BA template to perform certain aspect of analysis would be a be all and end all entity. Typically, you may have searched google to find a template that someone created to give you an idea of how things get constructed and structured to elicit, analyse and control requirements and scope. There is more it than just this.

No tool or template can accelerate analysis unless the analyst thinks through its implication and ensure that all the right questions are asked at the right time involving the right stakeholders.

So, how do you ensure that you have a template that address every need in the most comprehensive manner?
And, more importantly how do you ensure that you understand the not-so-obvious intricacies in creating a complete artifact from a template?

As I always like to say about the misconception that a tool or template can solve a problem effectively:

A fool with a tool (or template) is a more dangerous fool!

What is a Template?

If you look at the dictionary definition of a template, the closest pertinent definition is:

“…anything that determines or serves as a pattern; or a model to do something…”

For performing business analysis, we could define a template to be:

“… a starting point, standard or an outline of a model that helps business analyst perform analysis conforming to the standards of the organization and to ensure timely delivery of requirements and associated artifacts…”

It is usually a document or file having a pre-set format, used as a starting point for a particular application so that the format does not have to be recreated each time it is used in performing business analysis tasks.

The BABOK Perspective

So, how do templates look in the world of BABOK. Where are they referenced in the 32 tasks and seven knowledge areas?

There are three primary areas where BA templates could be aligned in the BABOK

1. Inputs 

Per the BABOK V2: 

An input represents the information and preconditions necessary for a task to begin. Inputs may be:

>> Explicitly generated outside the scope of business analysis (e.g., construction of a software application).

>> Generated by a business analysis task. 

There is no assumption that the presence of an input or an output means that the associated deliverable is complete or in its final state. The input only needs to be sufficiently complete to allow successive work to begin. Any number of instances of an input may exist during the life cycle of an initiative.

Using this context, templates constitute inputs that get generated by (or used by) a business analysis task. 

For Example: If you have planned for a high level approach for business analysis, and have created a “Business Analysis Approach” document, this can serve as an input; and if you know your BABOK, this is generated by the task ‘Plan Business Analysis Approach (2.1)’. 

2. Outputs

An output is a necessary result of the work described in the task. Outputs are created, transformed or change state as a result of the successful completion of a task. Although a particular output is created and maintained by a single task, a task can have multiple outputs.

An output may be a deliverable or be a part of a larger deliverable. The form of an output is dependent on the type of initiative under way, standards adopted by the organization, and best judgement of the business analyst as to an appropriate way to address the information needs of key stakeholders. As with inputs, an instance of a task may be completed without an output being in its final state. The input or output only needs to be sufficiently complete to allow successive work to begin. Similarly, there may be one or many instances of an output created as part of any given initiative. Finally, the creation of an output does not necessarily require that subsequent tasks which use that work product as an input must begin.

Using this context, templates are ways you could start creating an output gradually as your analysis moves along.

For Example: You may complete creating a “Requirements Management Plan” and use it to guide other aspects of your analysis (e.g. change management, requirements prioritization, etc) –  Or create a “Requirements Package” containing a collection of your project deliverables, which gets built with time as your analysis moves along.

3. Techniques

Each task contains a listing of relevant techniques. Some techniques are specific to the performance of a single task, while others are relevant to the performance of a large number of tasks.

You could also think of techniques as a way to perform a task in the BABOK.  

Why Do You Need Templates?

There are four main reasons why I think templates add a lot of value if used and leveraged properly:

  • Ensure Coverage
  • Set Expectations for business analysis work
  • Conform to Organizational Standards 
  • Increase Productivity  

We Are Marking April as BA Templates Month

Starting today we will provide in-depth articles to help the BA community to demystify and help them use BA templates. For us this is a massive endeavour and we are onto something big in the weeks to come.

Your Thoughts Please!

What other ways do you think templates help with analysis?

What challenges have you faced with using templates as a BA?

What is the biggest benefit that a template has offered you in the past?

Let’s say on an average you commute 2 hrs everyday (to and from work) – which I do. So, that’s 10 hours a week and roughly 520 hours a year. If an average audiobook is about 8 hours in length, then technically you can listen to 65 books in a year! 

Well, practically speaking that might be a lofty goal. You will also have to mix in music, podcasts, reading or just observing strange behaviors of your fellow-commuters. Right? 

However, what about a goal of listening to 7 books? Much more achievable, eh?

If you have never heard of audiobooks and you always thought listening was for music and radio only, think again! Your world of learning is about to change. Click to continue

A prototype is an early sample or model built to test a concept or process or to act as a thing to be replicated or learned from. [i]

The BABOK describe 34 techniques for business analysts to aid them in their pursuit of capturing better requirements and designing better solutions.  This blog post will look at prototyping and how it can be used more effectively in a business analyst’s armory. Click to continue

Are you starting a new business analyst project? Are you wondering how to get started without reinventing the wheel?

While some business analysts work in organizations with formalized processes and documentation requirements for their software projects, others start with a blank slate. Most of the established business analysts I know carry a set of business analyst templates with them that they’ve added to over time, essentially enabling them to embody their best ideas about how to do business analysis into every document they use. Click to continue

Either by choice or chance, as business analysts we get involved in sustaining innovation – Innovation that helps companies improve the performance of existing products and services along the dimensions that the business values.

So, our proximity to innovation is intimate.

What is disruptive innovation? Click to continue

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